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Herbs and Spices for Health and Cooking
Arrowroot - The Gluten-Free Herb
Arrowroot is a herb with high starch content but without gluten; so it is popularly used in gluten-free baked products.
A herb is a plant with variety of uses in both culinary and medicinal. Unlike vegetables, herbs (and also spices) are used sparingly. Herbs and spices are valued for their aroma and flavor, not as food substance.
Herbs, like spices, can be dried and stored in containers with air-tight lids. With proper handling and storage, these culinary wonders will last until six months.
Typically, culinary herbs are the leafy parts of a plant; while spices come from different parts such as fruit, berries, seed, bark, and root. However, a number of plants are used as both a herb and a spice. Examples are coriander (seeds and leaves) and dill (seed and weed).
Most herbs are perennial plants like thyme and lavender. Some are biennials like parsley and annuals like basil. Some herbs are shrubs like rosemary or trees like bay laurel.
A spice is any part of a plant (except the leaf) that is often dried and used as food additive to get desired color and flavor. A spice is also a good substance that kills or inhibits harmful microorganisms in food preservation. Spices are dried (or fresh) seed, bark, fruit that all come from a plant but they are distinguished from herbs, which consist only the leafy parts.
Spices have long shelf life when handled properly and stored away from heat and light. They are available in different forms but generally, spices are dried in whole. Whole dried spice can last for about two years; while the ground dried spice for only about six months. Spices lose their flavors when exposed to air.
Some spices are soluble in water; but many need oil to dissolve completely. Food flavorings often need some time to blend and get infused together so add spices as early as possible in cooking.
Like herbs, spices have many uses aside from cooking and food
preparation. Spices are also found in cosmetics, perfume, medicine, and many
more. Turmeric is popularly used as food preservative. Liquorice is included in
some medicines. Indeed, spices have healing powers.
Historically, spices are one of the most important commodities that is traded among the Middle East countries such as Egypt, India, China, and even as far as Indonesia. In the Middles Ages, spices were the most expensive and in-demand products among Europeans.
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Allspice is not a combination of spices. Its name was coined because it has the flavors of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Allspice dried berries are similar to brown peppercorns in appearance but produce more aroma when freshly ground. Leaves and wood parts are used for smoking meats.
Anise has a sweet aroma that resembles fennel, liquorice, and tarragon. Due to expensive production of anise, it was replaced by staranise, which contains similar flavor. Anise seeds were used to flavor drinks, candies, and some dishes like stuffed wine leaves, aniseed balls, humbugs, champurrado, atole de anis, and many more.
Annatto (achuete, achiote) releases reddish coloring when soaked in water or sauteed in oil. It smells slightly of nutmeg/pepper and tastes slightly of pepper. It is used as a flavoring agent in butter, margarine, and cheeses. Annatto seeds are used to color food in different dishes like arroz con pollo and hallacas. It also enhances the color of smoked fish and curry powder.
Basil has many varieties with a strong sweet taste and similar similar to anise. ‘Sweet basil’ is popular in Italian cuisine and the main ingredient in pesto; while other basil varieties (Thai, lemon, and holy basil) are popular in Asian cooking. Basil leaves can be used as fresh. Dried basil leaves lose original flavor and replaced with coumarin flavor (which tastes like hay).
Bay leaf is used fresh or dried in cooking to give flavor and aroma to different dishes: meat, seafood, and vegetables. Fresh bay leaves taste milder than the dried leaves. When crushed, bay leaves give more fragrance, which is herbal and floral similar to thyme and oregano. The main exporter of bay leaves is Turkey.
Bergamot is a fragrant herb used to make tea. Its name is coined after the Bergamot orange because of similar odor. Both the flowers and the leaves are good ingredients in tea making. They are also used in potpourri making because of the strong citrusy aroma. Bergamot is not related to the citrus fruit Bergamot orange (which is the real source of bergamot oil).
Black pepper is one of the common species, and often found alongside the table salt. Black pepper is harvested when drupes of pepper plant are still unripe and colored green. The drupes are boiled briefly and then dried under the sun or by machine. During the drying process, the skin of the pepper seeds shrink and the thin skin turn to wrinkled black layer.
Borage (or ‘starflower’) is mostly desired for its seed, which is a good source of oilseed called GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). Due to fresh taste (like cucumber), borage flowers and leaves are often used as salad ingredients, or garnishing for dishes, or decorations for desserts. Borage is considered as a vegetable in Germany, Spain, and Italy. As a medicinal plant, borage is used for regulation of metabolism by naturopathic practitioners.
Caper is a Mediterranean bush that lives long. The plant bears caper berries, which are the buds and the fruits. These berries are picked and salted or pickled (or both) for seasoning or garnishing. The Cypriot and Italian cooking commonly use the capers as distinctive ingredient. When mustard oil is released from each caper bud, strong flavor is developed. Pickled caper berries replace the olives as garnishing on martini glasses. Capers are also used to make tartar sauce, and traditionally served with cold smoked salmon. In Italian and Sicilian region, caper is added in meat dishes, salads, pasta salads, pasta sauces, and more
Caraway plant (or Persian Cumin) looks the carrot plant. The caraway fruits are shaped like crescent and releases strong flavor similar to anise. Used as spice in rye breads, caraway is also added in other dishes like curry, casserole, and sauerkraut. Caraway seeds are made to tea beverage as a remedy for colic.
Cardamom has two forms: Elettaria and Amomum. Both are used to give flavors to food and drinks. Black cardamom has astringent smell but does not taste bitter. It has coolness like mint. Arabic coffee is made from cardamom powder getting cooked with coffee. Black cardamom is a common ingredient in the Finnish sweet bread; and sometimes added to garnish Basmati rice.
Green cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight but so pungent only a small amount is needed to get flavor. In South Asia, the green cardamom is used to treat gums, teeth, and mouth infection; and also digestive disorders.
Cayenne pepper (or red pepper, when in powdered form) is related to bell peppers, jalapenos and many others. Cayenne pepper is known by different names: Guinea spice, bird pepper, and aleva pepper. The cayenne plant generally bears red fruits that have very hot flavor. After picking, cayenne fruits are dried dried and ground, or pulped and baked for easy handling, and then grounded and sifted to produce powdered spice, which is popular known as cayenne pepper.
Either in powder form or in its whole fresh form, the cayenne pepper is a popular ingredient in spicy dishes and also in thin vinegar-based sauces. This pepper is also available in dried flakes. Cayenne adds flavor to foods preserved in vinegar.
As foods, the term celery refers to stalks (petioles) of the plant; while celeriac refers to the roots. Both are popular as a vegetable in many parts of the world. Celery seeds (which are actually celery fruits) are also desired for their oil. As flavoring, celery seeds (whole and ground) are mixed with salt to make celery salt.
Chervil is a herb closely related to parsley and sometimes referred to as ‘gourmet parsley’. It has a delicate flavor that parsley and sometimes taste like liquorice. It is added as seasoning for dishes like poultry, seafood, and vegetables. Root chervil is also grown as root vegetable used in French soups, stews, salads, and omelette or omelet recipes.
Chili pepper (chilli, chillie, or chile) are actually berries but, for culinary purposes, chili peppers are considered as vegetables and/or spices. The fruits are sometimes bullet-shaped, thin, curly, and red or green in color. The red ones are ripe and taste hotter than the green unripe ones. Chili is used fresh, dried, or dried and powdered. It is made to hot sauce, chile sauce, and pepper sauce.
Chives is known as the smallest onions. It is also called ‘spring onions’ in some parts of the world. Chives straws (leaves) are shredded or minced when used as condiment or garnish for cooked fish, soups, and baked potatoes. It is considered as the household herb. Chives is one of the finest herbs of French cuisine, along with parsley, chervil, and tarragon. The chive plant has small violet flowers that are used to make dry bouquets.
Cinnamon sticks are produced from the inner bark of an evergreen tree that strives in tropical parts of the world. Cinnamon has two varieties but the one also known as Ceylon cinnamon (or ‘true cinnamon’) has delicate and sweet flavor with a light color. In ancient times, cinnamon was more precious than gold. It was also considered as a staple ingredient like ginger.
Clove is a native plant in North Moluccas (‘Spice Islands of Indonesia’) but it is now cultivated in several countries like Brazil and India. Clove are best bought as whole because it is loses flavor fast when in powder form. A small amount of clove is enough to give flavor to game meat like hare and venison. Sucking whole cloves can help treat diarrhea and indigestion.
Coriander is also known as Cilantro (when fresh leaves are used as herbs). Coriander is the seed used as spice for sweet and warm aroma only when ripe. Unripened seeds smell bad. Ground coriander seeds are mixed in curry powders to give bulk. Coriander is also an ingredient of garam masala, pickling spices, pudding spices, and other baked foods.
Cumin seeds come from small plant native in Egypt; but currently cultivated in many hot countries like India and North Africa. Cumin resembles caraway but not in taste. When slightly roasted before use, cummin releases strong aroma and flavor. It is a known ingredient for most curry powders and spicy mixtures, especially to kidney bean dishes.
Curry (or Kari – ‘kariveppilai’ in Tamil) is a leaf the comes from a plant widely grown in India and Sri Lanka. Curry leaf is aromatic when used fresh but it loses strength of flavor when dried. When crushed or chopped, curry leaf releases spicy, lemon- and pine-like aroma with a hint of tangerine peel smell. It is a popular ingredient to chicken curries. In India, the curry leaf is used to improve blood circulation.
Dill (means ‘to lull’) comes from a native plant in Europe. Dill tea helps treat insomnia. Both seeds and leaves are used to flavor foods. Dill is commonly used in pickling , where most parts of the plant is used. The flavor is slightly bitter and a lot like caraway; but the smell is sweet. It must be used in small amount because the flavor grows.
Fennel plant bears both herb and spice because most parts of the plant are edible. The spice comes from the dried seeds; and the rest become herbs. Fennel seeds is used to flavor sauces for fish dishes and also added to mayonnaise. Fennel is also an ingredient of the Chinese Five Spices, some curry powders, and several liquors like gin.
Garlic is considered as a native of Asia but now widely grown in countries with warm climate. Garlic is a bulb of a lily-like plant that is related to onions, chives and leeks. Garlic cloves are peeled and crushed or minced to release the sharp and acidic aroma. Garlic is an important cooking ingredient to most parts of the world. Garlic is used to ‘spike’ joints of lambs. Garlic is considered as ‘nature’s antibiotic’.
Ginger (means ‘with a body like a horn’) is a native plant in China and India. Ginger is not a root, it is a rhizome. It has a sweet and warm fragrance; but tastes fiery and sharp. In Asia, ginger is used fresh: crushed, sliced, or minced. Fresh ginger is also used in pickles, chutneys, and curry pastes.
Horseradish plant is long with tapering roots and similar to a parsnip. Horseradish is one of the bitter herbs and eaten to help relieve respiratory congestion. The root releases an irritating aroma when scraped and can make the eyes water like onion does. The flavor is very hot and very sharp. Horseradish is a perfect partner for fatty or oily foods.
Jasmine plant is related to shrubs and vines in the olive family. Jasmine flowers is made into jasmine tea, which is popular in China. Jasmine syrup is extracted from jasmine flowers to use in making jasmine marshmallows and scones. Jasmine essential oil, also a flower extract, is used in perfumes.
Lemon Grass is a Popular Spice in Philippine Cuisine
Fold a few stalks of fresh lemon grass and include in cooking 'tinola', a Filipino dish made of chicken pieces sauteed in ginger and boil in clear broth. Vegetables like chayote or green papaya and chili leaf shoots are added when chicken meat is tender.
Lemon grass also adds a tangy sort of spice in 'adobo', another Filipino dish made of chicken pieces or pork chunks cooked in soy sauce and vinegar with spices like black peppercorn, garlic, and onions.
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The Many Uses of Pandan in Both Dessert and Main Dishes in the Philippines:
Mildly crush a single leaf of Pandan and boil with raw rice grains to produce a bowl of fragrant fluffy rice.
Knot a few Pandan leaves and boil in a pot of water to use in making gelatin for a popular Filipino dessert 'Buco Pandan'. This cold dessert is made of sweetened milk, cream, young coconut meat cut into large cubes, and the Pandan-flavored green gelatin cubes.
Roast or fry a whole turkey 'Filipino-style' by stuffing the turkey with several leaves of Pandan, inside, along with other choices of spices like onions, peppercorn, and chili.
A refreshingly cool sweet beverage is simply made of boiled brown sugar with several Pandan leaves and served with shaved ice and cooked 'sago' or cubed black gelatin.
Salt is not from plant. The crystal-like grains are harvested from dried sea water. See Photos below.
Basil, Tarragon, and Spearmint
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Holistic Living, a place to relax. Inspirational, recipes, healthy foods, herbal teas, traditional recipes, crafts, more
- philippineherbs.com at Directnic
We grow, manufacture, and distribute our own line of Philippine Tropical herbs from our farm on Mt. Banahaw, here in the Philippines. We also carry herbal teas and Chinese teas for use in brewing Kombucha.
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Herbs, Herbal Medcine, directory of herbs, American Indian Herbs, African Herbs, South American Herbs, Asian Herbs, Chinese Herbs, Ayurvedic Herbs More than 2000 herbs from around the world cataloged by their common names as well as scientific names.
- Spice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Some spices are rarely available either fresh or whole, for example turmeric, and must be purchased in ground form. Small seeds, such as fennel and mustard seeds, are used both whole and in powder form...
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A native of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) the best cinnamon grows along the coastal strip near Colombo. In ancient Egypt cinnamon was used medicinally and as a flavouing for beverages...